Ethan Sprissler, Faculty Program Director at Excelsior College, interviews fellow faculty member, author, and campaigner, Dr. Michele Paludi, for the Women and Minorities in Management and Technology Series: a series of articles that explore the stories of fascinating people who provide an inspiration to others in the challenging and exciting fields of management and technology.
Dr. Michele Paludi is the first subject in our series of profiles of Women and Minorities in Management and Technology and she has been the Faculty Program Director for Human Resources and Leadership at Excelsior College for over two years. Recently promoted to Senior Faculty Program Director, she has extensive academic and professional credentials in her field of human resources and management. Speaking to her in the relaxed surroundings of her office at Excelsior College, I wanted to find out more about her professional life and experience, and explore some of her views on the role of women and minorities in the fields of management and technology.
A Prolific and Respected Author
A psychologist by training, she has published an impressive canon of 56 college textbooks on management, leadership, workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, diversity and inclusiveness, and the role of women in organizations. Perhaps one of the more notable texts is, The Ivory Power, which takes a hard look at the prevalence and effects of sexual harassment on college campuses in the United States. She explained to me that for this book, she received the Myers Center Award – making it the Outstanding Book on Human Rights in the United States for 1992.
Her experience and knowledge in the field of sexual harassment also led to her being invited to write an amicus brief for the Hill-Thomas case – a case in which accusations of sexual harassment were made against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas by Anita Hill. Later this led to an invitation to engage with some important work with then-governor Mario Cuomo on his Task Force on Sexual Harassment, a body which was created to examine the causes and consequences of sexual harassment.
From the Academy to Professional Practice
These very same experiences led her to an understanding that her work was largely written for an audience of professional psychologists, and that the findings of her work would be of a significant benefit to women in the workplace, not just to psychologists. It was at this point in her career that Dr. Paludi transitioned from a tenured full professor position at Hunter College, to work in consulting in the private sector. Dr. Paludi joined Excelsior College in February of 2016 as the Faculty Program Director for Human Resources and Leadership. She believes that this role has enabled here to combine both her academic and practical experience and she has been working with both faculty and staff to raise awareness of issues regarding race and gender in leadership as well as to promote the ideals of inclusivity and diversity within the College.
Encouraging Transformational Leadership
I asked Dr. Paludi what she considered to be some of the important findings in her research and that of her peers, and how does she perceive any progress made in integrating the voices of women and minorities into existing leadership structures. Pausing for a moment, her response began with, “ceteris paribus (all things being equal) … gender is still the determining factor in how leadership is perceived.” She elaborated further that the words that are still commonly associated with leadership: powerful, assertive, able to separate feelings from facts, are words that are used to describe the transactional approach, an approach used primarily by male employees. On the other hand, the approach to leadership most often used by female employees is transformational. Regarding the efficacy of the second approach, financial reporting of Fortune 500 companies shows us that companies with greater diversity in their leadership teams consistently outperform peer organizations which exhibit less diversity.
Training the Next Generation of Transformational Leaders
In the end, good leadership depends on quality training, even more so for the transformational approach. Unfortunately, women and minorities are underrepresented in a great many organizations and tend to receive less institutional support. Excelsior College has several initiatives aimed at advocating sound leadership principles and empowering employees; these initiatives include Leadership Academy, Advanced Leadership, Lean In, and 552 Leadership.
Dr. Paludi has been a powerful and inspiring presence in both the Academy and in professional practice for many years, her campaigning approach and her prolific authorship on subjects close to her heart will ensure that she remains at the forefront of her profession for many years to come.
This article was written by Ethan Sprissler, Faculty Program Director for Information Technology at Excelsior College.